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Chandler Parsons still isn't closing every game and that's OK with Rick Carlisle

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Carlisle doesn't think his $45-million forward sitting on the bench at the end of close games is a slight, just another step in his recovery.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Chandler Parsons' road to recovery has been long. While Parsons has now played in 35 of the Mavericks' 43 games, there are still plenty of bumps and curves in the road that he will have to face before he returns to full health. The latest? Playing time.

Since returning to the starting lineup on Dec. 28, Parsons has averaged 31.2 minutes per game. So playing time, per se, isn't the issue, but when those minutes are coming. Recently, Parsons isn't seeing much of the court in the final minutes of a close games. Rather, Raymond Felton is taking his place on the floor in crunch time.

As with any recent Rick Carlisle team, lineups aren't concrete for any certain situations. "We don't have any set finishing lineup," Carlisle said after Dallas' 118-113 overtime win against the Boston Celtics on Monday. "I think it's unfair to say, ‘Hey, Parsons is definitely a closer,' when he's really not 100 percent there yet. And tonight, he was in there a lot at the end. He was in there in our defensive rotation when we took Dirk out."

It's true. Parsons did see some playing time with the game on the line in the fourth quarter against Boston. He entered the game at the 4:10 mark with the game tied at 86. He was then substituted for Dirk Nowitzki with 2:23 remaining. Later, with just 23 seconds remaining in regulation, Parsons was reinserted into the game as Nowitzki briefly went to the bench. In the two minutes he saw in the clutch, he snagged an offensive rebound which lead to a putback layup. Parsons went on to play the majority of overtime, nailing one triple out of the corner to open the scoring.

Parsons' clutch stats are pretty good this season. In the final five minutes or overtime of a game within five points, he has a net rating of plus-4.3. Felton, in that same scenario, has a net rating of plus-1.8. It can be argued, though, that the reason Felton is seeing more clutch minutes is because of Parsons' inconsistently play as the result of the lingering impact from his injury.

"I see Parsons making continuous, steady progress," Carlisle said of Parsons' recovery. "His shot making is getting much better. The strength in his legs is getting better and better each week. He's working extremely hard and he's going to stay the course. I think coming out of All Star break, he's going to be more where he needs to be physically."

This has to be a tough spot for Parsons to be in. Initially, he wasn't able to finish games because of his minute restrictions. Then he opted to come off the bench so that he could be a closer. Now, with his restrictions pretty much a thing of the past, he often finds himself sitting on the bench with the game on the line -- and you don't have to read between the lines much to see how he feels about that. However, as he gets back to full health, you can only imagine that Carlisle will call on him more frequently in late-game situations. The road to recovery was never going to be simple, but as the Mavericks begin the second half of the season, it's clearly smoothing out.